The body of a Kaukauna man missing since January was recovered Wednesday from Lake Monona after a local technology buff used his sonar equipment to search an area indicated by police dogs weeks after the man's disappearance.
Rick Krueger, a sonar hobbyist who worked with local police and sheriff's deputies before retiring from the city's radio communications division, located the body of Charles Geurts, 26, around 6 p.m. Tuesday using GPS coordinates provided by police after extensive searches with tracking and cadaver dogs, said Sgt. Chris Boyd, who leads the Madison Police Department's K9 Unit.
Without the work of the dogs, "the chance of finding the body would have been a million to one — more than that," said Krueger, who in 2006 located a car in Lake Waubesa that contained the remains of two men who had been missing for 45 years.
No foul play is suspected in the death of Geurts, an employee of Agri-Partners Co-op who was in Madison to attend a conference for work, said Madison police South District Capt. Joe Balles.
Geurts left the Sheraton Hotel, 706 John Nolen Drive, shortly after 2 a.m. Jan. 16, soon after returning from a night out with colleagues. Police believe Geurts, who had been drinking, walked out onto the partially frozen lake and fell through thin ice.
His body was located in 33 feet of water about a half-mile off shore, near where Wingra Creek empties into Lake Monona, Boyd said.
In the days and weeks after Geurts was reported missing, Madison police searched the area around the hotel and nearby Olin-Turville Park with K9s as well as on horseback, Boyd said.
Geurts' scent was tracked to Waunona Way, where police believe he knocked on the patio door of a home about a half hour after leaving the hotel. Residents of the home called 911 and last saw the man believed to be Geurts staggering down the street.
The Sheraton can be seen across the lake from Waunona Way. The lake was frozen near the shoreline, but there was open water farther out from when Geurts was last seen.
Two Madison Police Department K9s, along with human cadaver search K9s Bitty and Izzy, who are privately owned by Madison police officers, also tracked Geurts' scent to the tip of Olin-Turville Park, across the lake from Waunona Way, Boyd said.
The dogs detected a scent coming from the lake and onto the trees and snow along the shore, she said.
As the lake froze over, Officer Carren Corcoran was able to take Bitty further out, where she was the first to indicate an area less than 200 feet from where Geurts' body was recovered by members of the Dane County Sheriff's Office Dive Team on Wednesday morning.
Boyd said searchers had previously drilled holes through the ice to lower equipment in an attempt to locate Geurts' body, but poor visibility and other factors put off the effort until conditions improved.
The nice weather on Tuesday prompted Boyd to contact the state Department of Natural Resources, which had offered to assist in the search with its side-scan sonar equipment once the lake ice had melted.
Krueger also used the weather opportunity to take his boat out for the first time of the year to see if his own gear was working properly. In hopes of bringing some closure to Guerts' family and fiance, he decided to scan the area police had indicated the body might be located.
"I found him on the first pass," Krueger said.